Time for Piano Lessons or Not?

It’s very easy for parents to go overboard on planning activities for their kids. You want to give them the best you can, opportunities to learn new skills and to meet/interact with people. But sometimes you just need to respect a child’s need to have some quiet time, rest time.

I definitely think the Princess has a full schedule—tae kwon do on Monday and Saturday, speech on Tuesday, Korean dance and drumming on Wednesday, and Korean language class on Thursday. Her free days are Friday and Sunday. Last week she said to me, “I’m so glad it’s Friday. We can just stay home.” What can I say to that? It sure sounds like she feels that she has a full schedule.

Right now, I’ve been fighting pressures to make the Princess take piano lessons. I don’t want to be one of those parents who schedule a certain activity just because everyone else is doing it. Plus, I do get a sense that she seems more interested in other instruments aside from the piano—such as the xylophone, drums, and guitar. In fact, she has no desire to learn piano at all. She told me so. If she wanted to take a lesson in anything, she might be interested in ballet, she said.

Even my mom was supportive of not pushing the piano issue, especially since she did the opposite for me. (She had me take piano lessons from kindergarten until my senior year of high school.) In fact, Mom said to wait until the Princess is given the opportunity to learn a musical instrument at school (band or orchestra) and take advantage of that. Her rationale is that once the Princess sees her friends playing instruments, she’ll want to do so as well.

I think I know why the Princess doesn’t want to take piano lessons. Jealousy. She throws a tantrum when I play and tells me to stop. She doesn’t understand that I can play the piano because I had taken lessons for a long time and put in many hours of practice. I think she expects to be able to play a piece effortlessly, without practice or struggle. She wants to be able to play the music that she hears like the way she draws whatever she sees or feels like drawing.

I wish I can teach my own daughter piano (I’d certainly save a lot of money), but I think I have to first teach her that everyone starts from the beginning not knowing what s/he’s doing and not sounding as good as s/he might like to sound. I could also make learning piano like a game.

A couple of days ago, the Princess gave me permission to play the piano when I happened to play part of the melody line to “I Like to Move It” (a song from Madagascar 2 that she really likes). She used the guitar from our RockBand set and a tripod as a microphone, and we had a make-believe jam session. At one point, she even allowed me to show her the keys that I played and tried to follow along. But then she wanted to get back on the mic and guitar. Nevertheless I was thrilled that she even let me show her something on the piano.

So I guess the best approach in teaching her piano is by doing the “head fake,” i.e., make it seem like I’m not trying to teach her anything and that she’s trying to teach me. I’ll start listening to the music she seems to like and work with her to try to transcribe what she hears on music paper—that way, I’ll be walking her through the process of how people try to translate what they hear onto a music page and then figure out how to flesh out the melody with chords, etc. Eventually she might be curious to try out the Baby Einstein classical melodies that she still likes to listen to. And then maybe she might be open to the idea of taking actual piano lessons.

I remember when I was young, it always frustrated me to have to learn pieces that no one seems to know/recognize. Why couldn’t I play something others could get into or appreciate like the latest pop song? I had a piano student who was really into jazz/rock (not my forte, as I was classical-trained), but I did throw him a bone and teach him some jazz chord progressions and riffs that I thought sounded neat. Despite my efforts to teach him Bach and whatnot, he only seemed to retain some of the jazz I taught him. At least he learned something, right?

But back to the issue on whether or not I should add piano to the mix. I guess my approach might be to whet her appetite to learn music by doing the head fake. I might perhaps consider having her stop tae kwon do (she’s at the point where they’re doing sparring, and I know she’s really not into that—I certainly am not). What the two people who’ve been pressuring me about piano lessons don’t know is that just going to piano lesson isn’t enough. A person has to practice every day—not just on the day of the lesson or on the day before. Oftentimes it means there will be a battle between the parent and child. How can anyone expect to learn any instrument without any practice? Do those two piano-lesson-pressure-cookers want to be the bad guy and enforce practicing on someone who’s tired from school and extracurricular activities?

Oh, they may say that they just want her to be exposed to music/piano, etc., but if that’s the case, then they should be content with the Princess and me doing pops songs like “I Like to Move It” and some Baby Einstein hits on the piano, don’t you think? But if their rationale is for her to learn in order to keep up with the Kims and Lees, I’ll have none of that, thank you very much.

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One thought on “Time for Piano Lessons or Not?

  1. such great food for thought… i was one of those kids who fought tooth and nail against piano – and when i finally was allowed to quit in 9th grade, i decided on my own to take it back up again. and, yes, the reason was my peers (crush on someone in jazz band…). and, yet i want my girls to be able to play and sort of feel like piano lessons are a “rite of passage”.

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